Judge: Disputed shell casing evidence can be used in Pierce murder trial

DOVER — Acknowledging the alleged likelihood of falsified time records in another matter a Superior Court judge nonetheless found that a former Delaware State Police firearms examiner’s work in a 2009 murder investigation credible enough to include evidence in an upcoming trial.

Thus, Jeffrey J. Clark found that a shell casing could be introduced in the case against Larry J. Pierce, accused of shooting Josue Barclay to death in Dover on April 18, 2019. The trial is scheduled to open next Tuesday inside the Kent County Courthouse.

Mr. Pierce questioned whether chain of custody was valid after issues surrounding Carl M. Rone’s alleged falsifying business records arose during a DSP investigation that led to an indictment. Mr. Rone is also scheduled for trial later this month in New Castle County.

The Delaware Department of Justice does not plan to introduce Mr. Rone at Mr. Pierce’s trial, the Court noted in an 11-page opinion issued Monday.

When Mr. Rone’s legal issues arose earlier, Mr. Pierce was nearing his own trial and the state requested a continuance to get another firearm’s expert. The trial was moved to Oct. 9 and expected to follow Mr. Rone’s proceedings, but they were delayed as well.

Carl M. Rone

Mr. Rone was the sole receiver, handler and tester of evidence in the case of Mr. Pierce in 2009.

At a two-day evidentiary hearing last week, Mr. Rone testified under immunity and several other state witnesses also took the stand. Prior testimony by Mr. Rone at a hearing was also offered, along with another firearms examiner and exhibits.

The Court found that the State established that earlier this year a second firearms examiner examined a 9mm casing found within 10 feet of the late Mr. Barclay’s body in 2009, and compared it to a test casing he fired on Feb. 26, 2018.

Enough corroboration was presented to indicate that Mr. Rone did indeed test the firearm evidence in the case and chain of custody was unbroken.

Judge Clark stressed that his evaluation of Mr. Rone’s actions was limited to Mr. Pierce’s case and had no bearing on charges against the former DSP firearms examiner.

According to Judge Clark, “the Court does not find the same motivation to be present when submitting records seeking extra pay that was not earned, compared to submitting allegedly false evidence logs and testing documentation when handling evidence …”

Also, the Court noted, Mr. Rone’s alleged false verification of payroll records occurred in 2016 and 2017, and the shell casing examination took place in 2009.

Deputy Attorneys General Gregory R. Babowal and Lisa Whitelock represented the State in the matter submitted Sept. 26, with attorneys Lloyd A. Schmid Jr. and Richard F. Matoni III arguing for Mr. Pierce.


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